Professionalism in early child care and education has been the mantra for child care professionals and professional organizations for quite some time. The field of early care and education has been endeavoring to raise the bar for the child care industry by establishing standards for child care administrators and staff through the application of developmentally appropriate practices. Professionalism in early care and education includes the elements of a commitment to quality related to research-based practice, ongoing child assessment, program evaluation, parent involvement and life-long adult learning.

Research-Based Practice

Research conducted to determine the effectiveness of practices results in what is called research-based or evidence-based effective practices. The concept of conducting research to identify effective practices was first initiated in the field of medicine and since then its value has been accepted by countless other fields, including early care and education. Professionalism in the field of early care and education requires the application of research-based practice in all areas of a child care including, teaching, social/emotional practices, nutrition, health and safety, personnel and administration.

Ongoing Child Assessment

Ongoing child assessment is the practice of consistently gathering information (data) related to how children in early care and education programs are progressing in meeting developmental milestones and readiness for school. Research-based practice calls for professionals to collect and analyze data related to child development and make adjustments to the curriculum for children who are either not progressing or who need instruction accelerated to their levels of learning to keep them from being bored.

Program Evaluation

Program evaluation in early child care and education is similar to ongoing child assessment, but the professional process is typically executed by administrative staff who evaluates total program success. Professionalism stipulates that early care and education administrators operate programs based on identified goals and conduct routine systematic evaluation to determine whether their program meets these goals.

Parent Involvement

Professionalism in the field of early care and education means there is a deep commitment to the research-based reality that families play a significant role in their children’s growth and development. Serious professionals capitalize on this information and include families in every aspect of their children’s early care and education program through conferences, telephone calls, putting information on a parent-accessible website, sending home newsletters and sharing information in any way that supports parent involvement..

Life-long Learners

A significant aspect of professionalism in early care and education is the commitment to being a life-long learner who is always hungry for new information to improve practice. The field of early care and education has seen an explosion in understanding how the brains of young children grow and mature. The commitment to life-long learning ensures professionals will not be trapped in old knowledge and beliefs and always ready to apply new research-based learning to support child learning.